Saturday, March 29, 2008

Teen Vermin Attack Lubavitcher

Just a few blocks from where I live, petty criminals have proven once again they are the stupidest stratum of society, and therefore why the New Antisemitism appeals to so many of them.

Police are investigating what they called a possible bias attack in Brooklyn in which a Jewish man was robbed and beaten before one of his attackers was hit by a car.

Uria Ohana, 25, an assistant rabbi, said Thurday that he entered the Fourth Avenue-Ninth Street subway station in Park Slope on his way to a lecture in Manhattan on Tuesday evening when a young man, one of a group on the platform, grabbed his yarmulke from his head and ran for the exit.

Ohana said he chased the man to the street, where the man darted between two parked cars and was struck by a passing vehicle.

As a crowd formed around the injured man, two of his attackers' acquaintances ran up and confronted him, Ohana said.

"When they saw him injured, they started screaming, 'Look what you did' and they punched me in the head," he said.

The two men who attacked him and a handful of others then jumped into a sport utility vehicle and fled, he said.

Ohana, who grew up in Israel and lives in Wellesley, Mass., said he believes the men targeted him because he is Jewish. "They were yelling 'Allahu akbar' which literally means 'God is great.' But it was the symbolic meaning that frightened me," he said.

I've lived in Brooklyn for ten years. I started on Fourth Avenue a little ways down from that train station. It hasn't been terribly dangerous in that time, and it gets less and less so, but there has always been a surplus of teen vermin on that strip.

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Nietzsche and Nazism

On Times Online, Ben McIntyre seeks to cleanse Nietzsche of the posthumous stain of Nazism:

Two gravestones stand side by side in the churchyard of the little village of Röcken, south of Leipzig: one belongs to Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the greatest and most misunderstood philosophers; the other marks the grave of his sister Elisabeth, a lifelong anti-Semite who hijacked her brother's writings after his death and used them to serve the cause of Nazism, leaving a stain on his philosophy that has never been fully erased.

Today, bulldozers belonging to a power company are preparing to dig up the town where Nietzsche and his sister were born and buried, to get at the seam of coal that runs beneath. Nietzsche and his sister may have to move. His followers are enraged; villagers say exhuming their famous son would be sacrilege; environmentalists, quoting Nietzsche's epithet “Be true to the soil”, wonder why yet more coal is being excavated to poison the world's atmosphere. I would be delighted to see Nietzsche dug up, if only for the symbolic opportunity to rescue him from the clutches of his appalling sister.

Before insanity struck him down in 1889, at the age of 44, Nietzsche lived in fear of being misunderstood. “Above all,” he wrote in Ecce Homo, “do not mistake me for someone else.” He was a conservative elitist, an aphorist of brilliance championing individual greatness in the midst of mediocrity. His writing is explosive and apocalyptic, dense and complex, and often shocking in its violence.

But Nietzsche was no Nazi. He vigorously opposed German nationalism, as he rejected all mass movements; he had no time for ideologues, mocked the notion of a Teutonic master race and loathed anti-Semitism in all its forms.

This happens to coincide with a passage from a book I've just dipped into: Fascism: A History, by Roger Eatwell, one of the star historians of the various forms of that political movement. Eatwell acknowledges the Elisabeth Nietzsche/Bernard Forster problem, but doesn't think it's quite as simple as McIntyre makes it:

In adult life, Nietzsche journeyed from ivory tour academic to ailing grand tourist. It is highly doubtful whether he would have felt any affinity with the working-class, unintellectual side of "proletaryan" Nazism. Many have stressed that Nietzsche criticized German nationalism and biological theories of race, but this argument needs probing more carefully. Nietzsche's critique of German nationalism was essentially twofold. First, he believed that it was diverting attention from more general European problems, especially the rise of decadence. Second and related to this first point, he saw modern German culture as too materialist, too philistine. But this did not mean that there was nothing about Germany that Nietzsche admired. He had a great respect for Frederick the Great and celebrated a more ancestral, heroic German spirit. Nor was his thinking completely opposed to racism. Central to his beliefs was a desire to save Europe from decadence and from the threat of newer and more virile nations. Ultimately, it is impossible to be sure how Nietzsche would have reacted to the development of the main fascist regimes. On balance, the evidence points to the idea that he would have opposed them -- though some who shared many of Nietzsche's views, for instance the major philosopher Martin Heidegger, were to support the Nazis on the grounds that they offered the best vehicle for creating a new world.

The main difference between Nietzsche's philosophy and fascism was not so much nationalism or racism as his pessimistic view of the possibilities of imminent change.

Eatwell points out that Nietzsche's conservatism, as well as the inspiration in Nietzsche conservatives have historically found, underscore the silliness of measuring fascism on a right-left spectrum. It's most likely his elitism and pessimism about the prospects of revolutionary action that would have distanced Nietzsche from the Nazis. In turn, people like Jonah Goldberg are absurd (and cynical) to try to link fascism to liberalism, but its particular incompatibility with Nietzsche underscores the "progressive" nature of what the Nazis envisioned.

The Eatwell excerpt is found on page 12 of the 1995 Penguin softcover edition.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Me on Sirius Radio

I just got done being interviewed by Joe Salzone for the Blog Bunker, a blog-centric talk radio show on Indie Talk, Sirius 110. Joe was great and I had a lot of fun. We discussed Ron Paul and his defunct campaign in light of my writings about the strange convergence of the antiwar Left with the isolationist Right, here and here. The program will rerun tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM and afternoon at 1:00 PM; I appear in the last twenty minutes of the hour-long show. Check it out if you're a subscriber.

Update: If you're coming by after having listened, feel free to leave some comments.

Monday, March 10, 2008

French Jew Kidnapped and Terrorized

In a gratefully limited reprise of the gang murder of Ilan Halimi, French authorities have arrested six banlieue thugs in connection with the kidnapping and humiliation of Mathieu Roumi, a French Jewish teenager. Roumi was terrorized in the same suburb as Halimi by tormenters professing membership in the "Barbarians", the gang that did Halimi in.

For two hours the attackers tortured the young man. One shoved cigarette butts into his mouth, another took issue with Roumi's Jewish origin, grabbed correction fluid and scrawled "dirty Jew" on his forehead. The six men proceeded to scream at him and threaten that he would die the way Halimi did.

They identified themselves as members of the "Barbarians," the same gang that kidnapped Halimi from his store, demanded ransom for his release, and when that was not forthcoming, tortured the 23-year-old over the course of three weeks. Moments after he was dumped on the street, Halimi died.

Roumi told police investigators that throughout his ordeal, his assailants employed measures with sexual and sadistic connotations. When the issue of his sexual orientation arose, one of them placed a condom on the tip of a stick and shoved it in Roumi's mouth.

"We admire Youssouf Fofana!" they shouted at him, referring to the leader of the gang that murdered Halimi.

As is customary, Sammy Ghozlan has been commenting on the case. You can read about Ghozlan and the problem of Jewish persecution in the banlieues in Marie Brenner's France's Scarlet Letter, a Socialism of Fools bellwether essay.

Update: All of this said, 2007 was the quietest year for French anti-Semitism since the start of the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000.

The year 2007 was the quietest year the French Jewish community has known since 2000. In October 2000, after the second intifada broke out, French Jews were hit by a wave of anti-Semitic attacks the likes of which had not been seen since World War II. In 2007, fewer than 200 anti-Jewish incidents were recorded, a scale akin to the number of attacks recorded in just one month in 2001.

There was a drop across the board in attacks, curses, threats, bullying and harassment.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Knave's Gambit in the Jewish Press

My apologies for the break in posting. I do have a good reason: besides my 9-to-5, I've been working on refining the original Knave's Gambit for publication in the Jewish Press. A 50%-condensed version appears on the front page of today's issue. Enjoy.